Experts and BHG readers answer.
The easiest way to create ambiance is with plants. If the balcony is not in full sun and your plants will get some protection from wind and sun, you can "vacation" your houseplants out there. Again, this is not advisable if the conditions are harsh (your houseplants will suffer). You can also invest in some hanging planter boxes/windowboxes/deck planters (see www.gardeners.com/bhg) and fill them with plants. Asian gardens are usually more tranquil in nature, featuring a color palette of browns, grays and greens, so choose your plants accordingly. For instance, you could include some short annual grasses such as carex, along with foliage plants such as coleus.
Also, I would consider a simple tabletop water fountain (available at garden centers, big box stores, or by mail-order). These are available in Asian styles and are quite easy to hook up. Then you get the tranquil sound of running water.
Luke Miller, editor
Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living magazine